Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Saudi Arabia

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Saudi Arabia, 2001, available at: [accessed 20 October 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 20,899,000
    – under-18s: 9,831,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 201,500
    – reserves: 25,0001642
    – paramilitary: 15,500+
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: unknown
  • Voting age (government elections): unknown
  • Child soldiers: unknown
  • CRC-OP-CAC: not signed
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II
  • It is not known if there are under-18s in government armed forces due to insufficient information about minimum voluntary recruitment age


There is no armed conflict in the country though armed groups have mounted attacks in connection with the presence of US and Western alliance forces in the region.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

According to article 34 of the Constitution, "The defence of the Islamic religion, society, and country is a duty for each citizen". The government establishes the provisions of military service. Conscription has never existed in Saudi Arabia, however, and volunteers are relied on to fill the ranks of the services.1643 Anyone seeking a commission by attending a military academy has to be 18 years-old and a citizen by birth or a naturalised citizen for at least five years.1644 The minimum age for voluntary recruitment to ordinary ranks is not clear.

Plans to increase the size of the army and National Guard would seem to necessitate some form of compulsory service. On several occasions, Saudi officials have stated that a draft would be introduced, but conscription has not been implemented as it would most likely be unpopular and easy to avoid, and could draw unreliable elements into the armed forces. In June 1991, however, the Minister of Defense and Aviation declared that conscription was not a viable option because the number of volunteers was exceeding the capacity of military centres available to train them.1645

In order to attract Saudi youth into joining the armed forces, the Ministry of Defense and Aviation has established its own high schools and colleges which offer subsidised education. The government also conducts advertising campaigns to entice young Saudi males to join the armed forces. Recruiting stations are spread throughout the country. The National Guard continues to rely on tribal levies to fill its ranks, recruiting from the tribes of Najd, reputedly the most trustworthy in the Kingdom.1646

To augment its armed forces, Saudi Arabia imports officers from other Arab countries, as well as Pakistan. At one time, there were approximately 15,000 Pakistanis in the armed forces. However, the contracting of Pakistani soldiers was phased out due to a disagreement between the Saudi and Pakistani governments over the screening-out of Shi'a soldiers during the Iran-Iraq war.1647 (The Pakistan armed forces accept voluntary recruits from age 16 – see Pakistan country entry.)

1642 Saudi Arabia Chapter of Shlomo, Brom & Yiftah Shapir, The Middle East Military Balance, 1999-2000 (MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, 2000.

1643 Brett and McCallin op. cit.

1644 Ibid.

1645 Helen Chapin Metz, op. cit.

1646 Ibid.

1647 Ibid.

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